I am co-curating the Ethiopian Women’s Art Contest with the ongoing art exhibition at the Alle School of Art and Design, Addis Ababa University. The art on display explores the theme of women by women artists. The United States Ambassador to Ethiopia, Ambassador Patricia Haslach, called on all Ethiopian women artists living in Ethiopia, to celebrate their creativity and be recognised for it. Her call got a reverberating response. This exhibition presents prize-winning art alongside submissions from each contestant, totaling one hundred and twenty eight artworks. They reveal a broad range of approaches among a multi-generation group of Ethiopian artists.
These paintings, drawings, photographs, installations, and sculptures utilize social construction of femininity, cultural narratives, spirituality, and aesthetics, taking critical positions through a self-conscious gaze at identity. Sometimes the subjects are dark other times humorous, telling stories of fear, survival, and joy; the results are poetic and insightful, gorgeous and prophetic. Betelhem Jekale’s Rape broaches a subject rarely discussed openly. Her unflinching emphasis on materials employs incriminating items such as a little girl’s stained underwear, focusing our attention on the surface of the artwork, while taking on metaphorical significance. Nebiat Abebe’s Rising is a non-representational celebration of women’s resilience. She explores the physical properties of acrylic paints while giving the viewer philosophical space to ponder.
This contest is a vital addition to the spaces through which women’s voices can be heard. The exhibition presents a cross-section of women’s positions in society, suggesting a time in the future where access to opportunities might be more equitable.